Posts Tagged ‘Spiritual Transformation’

“A Spiritual Immersion Program” by Linda Granzow

In 07 Observations on 2013/03/27 at 12:00 AM

My daughter is pursuing fluency in Spanish.  At the age of almost 17, she is also pursuing, with great fervor and persuasion of her parents, the opportunity to sojourn in Spain this summer for a four-week immersion program, where she will use the language out of necessity on a daily basis, live with a Spanish family, take classes, participate in cultural activities and ultimately, detaching herself from the familiar and comfortable habits and ways of her life, rise to the challenge and truly unlock the hidden potential within herself to expand not only a part of her brain, but also her very “being” which will be forever changed.

In the meantime, she is grinding through the learning of Spanish grammar, in all of its intricate uses of preterite, imperfect and future tenses.  So it should have come as no surprise to me when she offhandedly commented after Ash Wednesday Mass that the words spoken at the distribution of the ashes, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” seemed grammatically inaccurate.  How could it be possible to be dust, yet in the same breath be reminded that you will be dust someday?  One implies that you already are and the latter that you were and will be again.

In Genesis, we read that God formed man from the earth, the dust, a physical transformation that could only be wrought by the Creator Himself.  In the span of time in which the physical body is breathing and walking and living on this earth, it is still a temporary “temple,” as St. Paul describes in his first letter to the Corinthians, a sacred vessel for God’s Holy Spirit that lies within it, the soul which the Creator infused into the body at its inception.  The body will change in myriad ways as it matures, but no matter how well it is nourished and nurtured and strengthened, it will ultimately and literally return to the earth, to dust.  But what of the soul within that body?  Since we “believe in the visible and invisible” (our Creed), the soul, although it cannot be seen, is as real as any other organ in the body and it too changes during the life of a person.  It too will develop and journey through myriad changes, whether it is nurtured or ignored, weakened or strengthened through free acts of the will and the intellect.  But unlike the body, the soul is not created from the dust, so it will never return there.  This very essence of “being,” as unique as the body itself from every other person who ever lived or will live, is forever changed and will continue on into eternity—an eternity with Him or without Him.  It is hard to imagine spending an eternity with someone if you do not speak the same language.

We are born into the family of mankind where we speak the native language of a fallen human nature.  But the deepest longing of our soul, whether we realize it or not, is to speak the perfect love language of God and with God.   In the pursuit of this fluency, we will undoubtedly encounter mispronunciations in the form of sin.  But as in learning a foreign language, the more we follow the rules of the language, learn the vocabulary and immerse ourselves in a day-to-day practice of the language, we will transform ourselves in such a way that speaking this language of love, which is God, will flow out of us almost effortlessly.

Now is the time to begin our own spiritual immersion program in which to improve our fluency in the language of the soul—the love language spoken by God to each of us every day of our earthly lives.  Detaching ourselves from our familiar habits, participating in the disciplines and devotions of our faith and sustaining ourselves with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, will impel us to rise to the challenge of learning His language and ultimately, when our bodies return to the dust, our souls will be able to speak fluently with Him in eternity.

The Closeness of God Transforms Reality

In 06 Scripture & Theology on 2012/09/29 at 9:11 AM

The Holy Father dedicated his catechesis during this morning’s general audience to Psalm 23 which begins with the words: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”. “Addressing the Lord in prayer implies a radical act of confidence, the awareness of entrusting oneself to God Who is good”, he said.

Psalm 23 is an example of such confidence. “The Psalmist expresses his tranquil certainty that he will be guided and protected, sheltered from all danger because the Lord is his shepherd. … The image evokes an atmosphere of trust, intimacy, tenderness. The shepherd knows his sheep individually, he calls them by name and they follow him because they recognise and trust him. He takes care of them, protects them like a treasure, and is ready to defend them in order to guarantee their wellbeing, to ensure they live in peace. They shall want nothing if the shepherd is with them”.

The Psalm describes the oasis of peace to which the shepherd leads his flock. The setting is a desert landscape, “yet the shepherd knows where to find pasture and water, which are essential for life, he knows the way to the oasis in which the soul can be ‘restored’ with new energies to start the journey afresh. As the Psalmist says, God guides him to ‘green pastures’ and ‘still waters’ where all things are in abundance. … If the Lord is the shepherd, even in the desert, a place of scarcity and death, we do not lose our certainty in the radical presence of life”.

The shepherd adapts his rhythms and his needs to those of his flock. “If we walk behind the ‘Good Shepherd'”, the Pope said, ” however difficult, tortuous and long the paths of our life may seem, we too can be certain that they are right for us, that the Lord guides us and that He is always close”.

Hence the Psalmist adds: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me”. Benedict XVI explained how, although the Psalmist here uses a Hebrew expression which evokes the shadows of death, he nonetheless proceeds without fear because he knows the Lord is with him. “This is a proclamation of unshakeable trust and encapsulates a radical experience of faith: the closeness of God transforms reality, the darkest valley loses all its perils”.

This image concludes the first part of the Psalm and opens the way to a change of scene. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows”. The Lord is now presented “as the One Who welcomes the Psalmist with generous hospitality. … Food, oil, wine are the gifts that enable us to live, they bring joy because they lie beyond what is strictly necessary, an expression of the gratitude and abundance of love”. In the meantime the enemies look on powerlessly because “when God opens His tent to welcome us, nothing can harm us”.

The Psalmist goes on “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long”. The Psalmist’s journey “acquires fresh meaning and becomes a pilgrimage towards the Temple of the Lord, the holy place in which he wishes ‘to dwell’ forever”. Likewise, living near God and His goodness is what all believers long for, the Holy Father said.

This Psalm has accompanied the entire history and religious experience of the People of Israel, but only in Jesus Christ is its evocative strength “fulfilled and fully expressed: Jesus is the ‘Good Shepherd’ Who goes in search of the lost sheep, Who knows His sheep and gives His life for them. He is the way, the way that leads to life, the light that illuminates the dark valley and overcomes all our fears. He is the generous host Who welcomes us and saves us from our enemies, preparing the banquet of His Body and His Blood for us, and the definitive banquet … in heaven. He is the regal Shepherd, King in meekness and mercy, enthroned on the glorious seat of the cross”.

Psalm 23 invites us to renew our trust in God, the Pope concluded, “to abandon ourselves completely in His hands. Let us, then, trustingly ask the Lord to allow us always to walk on His paths, even along the difficult paths of our own times, as a docile and obedient flock; let us ask Him to welcome us into His house, at His table, and to lead us to ‘still waters’ so that, in welcoming the gift of His Spirit, we may drink from His spring, source of that living water which ‘gushes up to eternal life'”.

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